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Filiform Warts: Causes and Treatments

A filiform wart is a growth that occurs on the skin. It’s a benign growth that affects people with the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Not only are these warts unattractive, but they’re also very contagious. Therefore, it’s best to treat them as soon as possible.

These warts get their name from their filiform (threadlike) appearance. They most commonly appear on the lips and eyelids, as well as on parts of the neck.

In this article, we’ll talk about what causes them as well as show you treatment options.

Overview of Filiform Warts

filiform wartsWhen a person gets infected with the human papilloma virus, the top layer of their skin begins to grow uncontrollably.

This eventually forms filiform warts, which can be diagnosed based on its unique appearance.

While they usually don’t cause any pain or discomfort, they are contagious. They also aren’t very aesthetic.

Fortunately, these warts respond well to treatment, so don’t delay in seeing a doctor. The sooner you get them taken care of, the better.

Bottom Line: Filiform warts are caused by HPV. Even though they are contagious, they are easy to treat.

Symptoms of Filiform Warts

These growths are usually painless. They are benign, can grow to be quite long, and commonly appear on the neck and face.

Some people aren’t so fortunate though. They can experience additional symptoms like itchiness, bleeding, and pain.

It’s also possible for the warts to spread to other parts of the body. Also, depending on their location, they can become irritated.

For instance, if you have filiform warts on your neck that are constantly rubbing against a chair, then they may become sore and irritated.

Bottom Line: Usually these skin growths are painless. However, in some people, they can be painful and itchy.

What Causes Filiform Warts?

As we mentioned earlier, they are caused by a type of virus called the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Note that not all strains of HPV cause filiform warts- only some. The strains you need to worry about are 29, 1, 27, 4, and 2.

These are the strains that lead to the cauliflower growths at the top of the skin. Here are the most common ways people acquire it:

  • Human Contact: Since these warts are highly contagious, all it takes is touching someone with it to get it yourself. This is the reason why it’s so common in people who have many sexual partners.
  • Clothing: Ask yourself: do you currently share clothing with someone else? If so, then it’s possible for HPV transmission to happen. If that person has HPV, and you wear their clothes, then you can get it too.
  • Sharing Towels: Did you know that sharing towels can increase your risk of getting filiform warts? In fact, sharing any kind of personal hygiene-related item (toothbrush, hair brushes, etc.) can put you at an increased risk.
  • Infected Surfaces: This is a less common risk factor but it’s still one to think about. If you touch a surface that is infected with HPV, then you can get it yourself. Public showers and restrooms are two examples.
  • Sharing Shoes: This sort of goes together with the whole “sharing” concept mentioned above, but I’ll talk about it anyways. When you share shoes, you put yourself at a higher risk of contracting an HPV infection. In short, don’t do it!

People with weakened immune systems (like people with HIV) are more susceptible than the average person. There’s a common theme to most of these risk factors: sharing.

By sharing clothes, towels, or shoes with another person, you increase your risk of getting filiform warts. Obviously, sexual contact is another huge risk factor.

Bottom Line: To reduce your risk of getting filiform warts, don’t share clothes, towels, or shoes. Sexual contact is another big risk factor.

How to Treat Filiform Warts

Here are the most common ways to treat this annoying symptom:

  • Salicylic Acid: Salicylic acid can be very effective at helping the immune system fight the HPV infection. It can even be used before a breakout to prevent it from happening in the first place. In people who already have them, it also works quite well.
  • Trichloroacetic Acid: This is another topical agent that can effectively get rid of filiform warts. This molecule is like acetic acid, which the major exception being that the hydrogen atoms have all been replaced with chlorine atoms.
  • Cryotherapy: This treatment options involves “freezing” the warts to get rid of them. For this, the doctor will use liquid nitrogen. Some patients may require several rounds of cryotherapy until all their warts are completely gone.

There are typically 4-6 cryotherapy sessions required per person depending on the size, shape, and number of filiform warts present.

Why so many sessions? Because some people develop location reactions to the freezing process. Thus, doctors prefer to perform the process gradually.

Some potential side effects include skin discoloration, scars, and nerve injury. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any concerns that you have.

Bottom Line: Cryotherapy, trichloroacetic acid, and salicyclic acid are common treatment options for people with filiform warts.

Are Filiform Warts Contagious?

Yes- they’re highly contagious. This is why you must be very careful about spreading them to other people.

To avoid spreading them to other people, avoid human contact and don’t share anything that could potentially spread the virus to someone else (towels, shoes, etc.).

The less you physically associate with other people, the better. Following these tips won’t guarantee that you don’t spread it to someone else, but it dramatically reduces the chances.

Bottom Line: Since filiform warts are highly contagious, you should be very careful about spreading it to other people.

How Can You Tell if Someone Has HPV?

Not all types of HPV can be detected through modern tests. For example, there are currently no approved diagnostic tests for determining if someone has mouth/throat HPV.

However, there are tests that can screen for cervical cancer. Unfortunately, most people who are infected don’t present any symptoms and so they’re more likely to spread it to other people.

A lot of the time, people won’t know that they have it until filiform warts have appeared on their body.

Bottom Line: Most people don’t know that they have HPV until the warts have already appeared on their body.

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